(I do not believe there are any full-blown spoilers in here, but there are some details that may have been previously unknown.)
I was very fortunate to go see Beauty and the Beast opening weekend. My family was actually so excited for it that our tickets were purchased a month in advance! I was so enthused about it that the dry-erase board that is attached to my dorm has had a tribute to it since the beginning of the month (featured image and pictured below).
Growing up, Disney’s original version was one of my favorite movies. I identified a lot with Belle, with her dark hair often pulled up with a bow in her hair, her love for books and her family, and the way others looked at her as if she had a problem. (I do not want to bring the tone of this down, but there were (and still are) times I did not feel like I fit in. If you feel like that, it is totally okay. One of the quotes I painted on a canvas for my dorm room says, “If you don’t fit in, you’re probably doing the right thing.” I’m just different from most people, and my differences weren’t always received well. Anyway…) The original Beauty and the Beast only recently lost its #1 spot in my eyes to Tangled. However, when I heard that a live-action remake was in the works, I was so overjoyed. When they announced the cast, I was even more thrilled! With Emma Watson as Belle, Luke Evans as Gaston, Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, Ian McKellan as Cogsworth, Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts, and Josh Gad as LeFou I knew it was going to be pretty magical.
However, I did have one particular doubt. Last January, Grease Live! debuted. I had heard of most of the cast except for Aaron Tveit, who played Danny Zuko. I looked him up and found one thing that he was in that I recognized. However, I was still unsure of his character because I had only seen the other movie I knew (Les Misérables) once. In my opinion, I feel that Tveit was mediocre compared to the rest of the cast. Granted, I thought he did well; I just thought he could have improved. In the original 1978 version of Grease, John Travolta stands out. It is obvious that he is the main character. I felt that Tveit lacked the quality that Travolta possessed of being able to stand out, even in a crowd.
I write that to come to my point. It was the exact same way with Dan Stevens, who plays the Beast. I only recognized one other thing he had been in, and I feared he would bring the movie down. The main characters’ job is to carry the story. I did not want the story to be brought down because of a main character’s “mediocrity”.
Nevertheless, Stevens did not disappoint. He was phenomenal, just like the rest of the cast, and his voice (both when singing and speaking) is rich and melodious. He portrayed the Beast excellently, placing proper emphasis and harshness when needed.
I will admit, I had one other concern. When the media dropped the fact that LeFou was going to be gay, I was definitely slightly anxious. It got me thinking, “Well, who would LeFou have feelings for?” The obvious answer is Gaston. This worried me that they would insert a scene to demonstrate this, and thus change the storyline, even if it was slight. However, as usual, the media was overly public about LeFou’s sexuality. As my sister pointed out, “It wasn’t like LeFou was exactly straight in the original.” She is right. In the 1991 version, LeFou seems to be infatuated with Gaston anyway. This version just took that a step further. To me, it seemed that Gaston was just LeFou’s idol/celebrity crush. He was so desperate for Gaston to notice his affection. However, Gaston was too busy obsessing over Belle to notice. Honestly, if it was not outright told that he was gay beforehand, I might have been suspicious, but it definitely was not enough to detract from the main storyline (after all, who wouldn’t be in love with Gaston for his looks? Otherwise, he’s just an egomaniac. He has to have SOMETHING going for him). (Also, I think Disney’s next endeavor should be villain backstories. Like how exactly did Gaston and LeFou become friends? I think that would be brilliant!)
I had one disappointment with the movie, but I understand why it was there. See, Ewan McGregor was the only one with a different accent than the one he normally has. He had more of a French accent than any of the other character, and that bothered me a little. I understand that he is more of a showman than some of the other characters, but still. He has a beautiful singing voice naturally (um, hello Moulin Rouge), and his French accent slightly distorts his voice. However, all the other characters kept their natural voice. I just did not think it fair that his voice was the ONLY one that changed, but I understood why it did. I just wish some other characters would have had more of a French accent. After all, it DOES take place in France.
Nevertheless, despite these misgivings, the movie was extraordinary! I loved the theatrics of “Be Our Guest”, the music that was still easy to sing along to, and the whole movie itself. Probably my favorite thing overall was the accurate historical details. The costumes were perfect in representing 18th century France. The set looked like France.There is also a scene with a visit to Paris, and there is no Eiffel Tower, which is also fitting, as the Eiffel Tower was not built until 1889 (19th century). Within the Paris scene, there is a mention of plague, which is formally called the Bubonic Plague. Upon further research, there was an outbreak of the plague in France in 1720, which is also within the context. My favorite reference to the time period, however, might have wernt unnoticed to most. In the song “Be Our Guest,” it says “… They [the dishes] can sing, they can dance. After all, miss, this is France. And the dinner here is never second best…” In the entirely animated version, the dishes formed an Eiffel Tower to represent France. However, as I have already mentioned, the Eiffel Tower was not built at the time. So in this version, when Lumiere sings that line, he uses a bread slicer in that pause. So, it sounds like, “…After all, miss, this is France [chop!]…” I laughed so hard at that line! One of the biggest events in 18th century France was the French Revolution and the use of the guillotine. The action of the bread slicer (and even the sound it makes) is entirely parallel to the guillotine. So when Lumiere says, that it is France, he implies that the country of France is synonymous with the guillotine, which at the time, if it was not quite so during the actual movie, it would be soon (there is even a guillotine reference in Hamilton!). It is perfectly within the time period in which it is supposed to be set.
My other favorite thing, if I had to pick just one, was probably the music itself. Specifically in the music, there were three subtle tributes to Moulin Rouge, which is fitting since Ewan McGregor is the main character of that musical. In “Be Our Guest,” Cogsworth emerges in a very Indian-like turban, all bedazzled like you would see in Moulin Rouge. In the Beast’s solo song, there is a line that says “It’s more than I can bear”. This line is similar to McGregor’s “It’s more than I can stand” in “El Tango de Roxanne,” and both lines possess the exact same chord progression. In the same song by the Beast, he sings “Come what may.” Yes, I know that this is a common phrase; however, Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman sing a song with that same title and it is also played the same way in both.
I cannot express how amazing this movie was! I was blown away by every part of it, and I was far from disappointed! I highly recommend seeing it. I plan on buying it when it comes out on DVD that way I can enjoy it as much as I want. Although the original Cogsworth would interject, “And, as I always say, if it’s not Baroque, don’t fix it!” (the original is far from “broke”), the new version easily surpasses its predecessor in perfection.